Trying To Be Happy Makes You Sad: Part 1Posted by Psychologist on Jan 17, 2013 in Articles by Ken | 3 comments
“My theory about happiness is simple: I am content with knowing that I will not always be happy. That is my happiness.”~~Daniel Chidiac
… and You Miss Gratefulness!
Have you Heard one of these lately?
“I just want to be happy!”
“I just want my kids to be happy!”
“I just want my family to be happy!”
“I just want everyone to be happy!”
I hear these mantras all around me. We want to have pleasure without pain. It reminds me of my heart surgery years ago and asking for more Demerol; it reminds me of the buzz of the street drugs I toyed with and it reminds me of some Walt Disney movies. Pleasure without pain is an illusion perpetrated by our culture. Try to find an exception…I dare you! It flies in the face of the daily reminders of our life. Pleasure without pain is unachievable unless we medicate our mind in some fashion with either specific drugs or specific fantasies.
“It teaches me something!”
Over the holiday I watched “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” again. There is a character in the film named Graham, a retired British high court judge, played by Tom Wilkinson. At one point in the film Graham is asked by a disgruntled traveling companion, who hates being in India, what he sees that she doesn’t see? His response blew me away…it was so profound. “The light, the colors, the smiles and the way people see life is a privilege, not a right…it teaches me something!” he said.
Life is a privilege not a right!
It is worth seeing the movie for that one line, “…life is a privilege not a right…”
I confuse happiness with gratitude. I confuse happiness with appreciation. I was sold a marketing package by our culture. I was brainwashed into believing if I achieve certain things I am are guaranteed happiness – pleasure without pain. I was assured of happiness if I had the RIGHT: looks, wealth, family, kids, education, job, friends, house, car, religion, political affiliation, and so on. The truth is something else…but I prefer that something else.
A Painful Paradise
I remember sitting on my yoga mat on my balcony overlooking the pristine seashore of Prince Edward Island at 6 am watching the sun crack the horizon and appreciating how lucky I was to be there. But, at the same second, I was also feeling crowded by my neighbor’s cottage which was blocking part of my view; feeling anxious about the challenges I faced in a day ahead with my partner, my three daughters, my three visiting grandchildren and my two struggling clients. And, it was also predicted to be a really hot, humid day.
As I then focused on the stifling day ahead my mind also went to my office window beside my desk I could open and the ceiling fan I could turn on to generate a refreshing breeze.
We all do this constantly
I had all these awarenesses one after another in milliseconds, very quickly…really without noticing it until I looked carefully at my thoughts. We all do this constantly…have simultaneously both positive and negative perceptions.
How can I experience only pleasure, be happy, if my mind goes to both sides every time? When I looked at any focused moment where I perceived only pleasure or only pain, the other side was always there waiting to be noticed by me as well. This would suggest pleasure without pain and pain without pleasure are not possible in the human mind. So then, one sided pleasure – happiness – is not possible. Let’s check this out and resolve seven myths about happiness right now and find the seven truths beneath.
Myth #1 – Happiness is an achievable spiritual state of pure pleasure.
I checked it out, nirvana means “the subjective experience of release from a prior state of bondage.” The real bondage is the restrictions within my own illusions. I have a bunch of experiences, just like you, which have left me believing certain things are good and others are bad. So I see my world with those beliefs as my filter. In the natural world however, or for other people, my filter does not apply. I may think it should but it just isn’t going to happen.
There are laws of nature which are universal and this mean they apply at all levels of my universe. The laws of symmetry is one of these. This law states simply every aspect of our universe operates as a balanced system with each part counterbalanced by an equal and opposite other part. I can find numerous examples to verify this
I read the law of symmetry operates at all levels and in all systems we humans have been able to identify. The depth and scope of its impact is even reflected culturally in our language when we say things like: “Every cloud has a silver lining!”; “What goes around comes around!” and “What goes up must come down!”
The law of symmetry demands every thing and every perception have a balance of both a negative and positive aspect in equal measure. The universality of the symmetry law has been recognized by renowned scientists including Galileo, Newton, Einstein and others.
Brian Greene, professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia said in his best seller, “The Elegant Universe” …nature treats every moment in time and every location in space identically – symmetrically…”
The truth then is if I am really seeking happiness as pleasure without equal pain then I am seeking an impossible illusion…a fantasy. If instead I seek the beauty of the symmetry and balance of my life I can uncover it at every second of my existence. It is one of the few guarantees there are in my life.
Truth – True happiness is an appreciation for the duality of pleasure and pain at every second of your life.
Myth # 2 – Happiness is always believing in yourself regardless of the circumstances.
A wise man I met told me he had earned from his life experiences half of the time you need to believe in yourself and the other half you need to doubt yourself. Interestingly, this approach reflects the law of symmetry and maximizes the learning needed to survive and evolve optimally. So it looks like, just like every other aspect of nature, self-confidence and self-doubt need to be balanced within our mind to ensure ideal evolution.
As I grow older, I find more varied and personal examples of this symmetry. Even when I ask, and I have done this many times, a group of people to identify the best thing that has ever happened to them, they can find out how it cost them in equal proportion. Conversely, they can also find out how the worst thing that happened to them equally served them in many important ways.
A clear example of this is demonstrated in parenting. When I have asked people what it is like to be a parent, many will promptly say things like “exciting, wonderful or lovely.” But when I press further they will invariably add “frustrating, exhausting or expensive.”
I recall a consult with a young mother with a “beautiful, blond haired, blue eyed” boy of 18 months who was experiencing panic attacks on airplanes when traveling with her baby. She hastened to add she had a devoted spouse and four dotting grandparents eager to be with her baby. She was working so hard at being a “positive” mother I asked her what was the negative side to being a mom for the first time. She hesitated at first then responded, “How could there be a negative side to having a healthy, beautiful baby?”
I asked her, “What about the fatigue, isolation, loneliness, missing work, messy diapers?”
She responded, “I don’t think I should talk about those things because it might suggest I don’t like being a mom.”
“So you strategy has been trying to notice only the positive half of motherhood?” I asked.
“Yes, of course!” she retorted.
“It can’t be done!” I responded, “No wonder you are experiencing panic attacks…you are trying to notice only half of your life and not honoring your whole life.”
She was dumbfounded and went on to explain how from her upbringing she had tried “to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.”
Once she verbalized and owned being a mom has two equal sides her panic attacked disappeared. There has also been some suggestion postpartum depression can be initiated by this type of one sided unnatural perspective.
Truth – True happiness is being grateful for believing in yourself half the time and doubting yourself the other half to optimize your learning and evolution.
Myth #3 – Happiness comes with fame or success.
I noticed recently in a local newspaper how proud Canadians are of their history as “international peace keepers.” As a country, we also take great pride in our hockey skills. There are many young kids in this country who dream of playing in the NHL (National Hockey League). Most recently, the recognized “best player” in the NHL was unable to play for almost a year due to recurring brain injuries. A local curmudgeon commented on the paradoxical truth that Canada with its international reputation for peace keeping equally champions one of the most violent and dangerous sport in human history.
This paradox of ours is not only quite common but also quite natural. It was brought to my attention by Romero a 35 year-old former semi-professional soccer player. Andy was living in his mother’s basement for a few years while he recovered from his various challenges including numerous broken bones; several simultaneous drug addictions; deformed hands and feet; recurring concussion-related mental confusion and dysfunctional relationships with just about everyone in his family.
It wasn’t just Romero who was infatuated with soccer fame, it was his entire family. Several older members of his clan has flirted with public fame only to flame out from lack of skill or injuries. This family history only made Romero more determined to “make it.” Romero perceived the only way to get valued in his family was to achieve what had been denied his other family members. With his own fame he would have proved to himself and his family he had value.
It was a slow, painful process for him to resolve his infatuation with external public fame and family approval and to replace it with an internal collection of priceless learning which enabled him to learn to value himself first and turn his life in a direction with a future.
Truth – True happiness is learning to appreciate yourself as you are not as others want you to be and this can only come from inside yourself not from any external source.
Those are the first three of the seven myths (and truths) of happiness. In Part 2 we will conclude with the final four myths and truths.
Until then these are…
The POINTS TO PONDER AND REMEMBER are:
- True happiness is an appreciation for the duality of pleasure and pain at every second of your life.
- True happiness is being grateful for believing in yourself half the time and doubting yourself the other half to optimize your learning and evolution.
- True happiness is learning to appreciate yourself as you are not as others want you to be and this can only come from inside yourself not from any external source.
Need Help Recognizing Real Happiness?
Contact Ken Pierce; he guarantees results.